The great recording engineer/producer David Baker has passed
on...left the planet. This comes as a total shock to all
who knew him. He died peacefully in his sleep after finishing
a recording date in Rochester, NY, July 14, 2004. He has
contributed to many prestigious audio recordings for many
record labels and independent artists. He is survived by
his wife Kyoko Baker. We will miss him and thank him for
his great work and contribution to high quality music recordings
and as a friend.
- illy B (July 14, 2004)
David Baker's releases on Amulet include
in the Ozone, Love
Elk Speaks, The
Turntable Sessions, and For
No One In Particular.
Baker behind the soundboard
should come as no surprise that David Baker has stayed a busy person
in the recording industry with over 2,000 recordings to his credit.
His qualifications practically start before his birth, in 1945,
through his grandfather. The elder Baker was a salesman for Columbia
Records in the late twenties. At age six, Baker's father, Harry,
established Baker Audio in Atlanta, GA. David grew up around this
business and assisted in installing large hi-fi systems with his
father. Baker Audio eventually housed an AM/FM radio station and
became know as the "House That Music Built". This environment can
be credited for sparking Baker's interest in engineering as he began
making amateur recordings of everything from B Minor Mass to Jazz
Big Bands and editing tapes at the radio station. Not too long after,
Baker began coordinating sound for the Atlanta Arts Festival, which
required operating all stage audio and preparing over sixteen hours
of music per year. In 1965, at the age of twenty, Baker headed out
to work on his biggest undertaking at that point is his career.
Civil Rights movement was gaining strong momentum at that time in
history, and Baker was recommended for some recording work that
was needed. Baker headed to the Mississippi Delta and began doing
a number of field recordings ranging from registration drives to
church hall meetings. According to Baker, "The Civil Rights Movement
had a profound influence on my life in musical engineering." The
final product of these field recordings became the important Movement
Soul album, which is still available from the Library of
was now 1967, the "Summer of Love", and the jazz scene was in the
middle of a major metamorphosis that would change the history of
the genre. Baker knocked on the door of Apostolic Studios in New
York City; at the time it was home to Frank Zappa and the Mothers.
Baker stated that he knew right away this was the place for him.
After years of experience, Baker also began formal training at The
Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto during the summer of '67
and The Institute of Audio Research in NYC during the fall. He remained
at Apostolic, as Chief Engineer, until they closed their doors in
1970. It was during this time Baker made the Spaces album
with John McLaughlin and Larry Coryell.
and Kyoko Baker
Apostolic closed, Baker headed to Portland on the advice of a friend.
He quickly became indifferent to the scene in the northwest and
returned to New York City within six months. He now found himself
working as the Chief Engineer for No Soap Radio, a small advertising
agency in the Village, producing radio jingles. In 1973, Baker knocked
on the door of Vanguard Records. He became their Chief Engineer,
where he remained until 1975 to pursue an independent career. At
this point a strong connection between Baker and Japan became established.
Baker had met engineer Yoshihiro Suzuki and began working on projects
for the Phillips/Eastwind label. His connection with Suzuki and
producer Yasohachi Itoh is still a strong working relationship today
at Sony Records.
remained primarily a free-lance engineer until 1986 when he began
the undertaking of remastering the entire Vanguard Classics catalog
for CD re-release. He has worked for ECM, Enja, Blue Note, Atlantic,
Sony, Verve, Black Saint, Soul Note and Amulet…just to name a few.
combined project sales well into the millions, Baker has no intentions
of slowing down. "Record production quality at the source remains
my primary goal," says Baker. This statement is quite evident on
his newest project Pitamaha:
Music from Bali, which sounds more like a studio recording
than a field recording. He has so many accomplishments that they
could not all be listed. His long-term relationship with Shirley
Horn recording for Verve has earned a Grammy, and to date he has
traveled the world over in the line of duty. Baker has become one
of the masters of the art of recording. Many people can do it, but
very few can do it with the dedication and distinction Baker has
achieved consistently over the last three decades.
by Mike Brown